Banged-up Gators show resolve in win at LSU
Published: Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 5:56 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 10:18 p.m.
BATON ROUGE, La. — It's been a recurring theme for the Gators this season.
One starter goes down, another banged-up player steps up.
It didn't matter that Mike Rosario was out with an ankle sprain. Or that his replacement, Casey Prather, suffered a high left ankle sprain that sidelined him for the entire second half. No. 11 Florida still had more than enough firepower and resolve on defense to handle LSU 74-52 before 9,964 at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Even with a second-half rotation of six players, the Gators broke the game open with 45 points in the final 20 minutes.
“Coming down the stretch on the road with only six guys, I thought it was a really, really good win for our guys,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said.
Senior Kenny Boynton led four Florida players in double figures with 20 points, passing both Erving Walker (1,777 points) and Udonis Haslem (1,781 points) for third on UF's all-time scoring list. Boynton now has 1,782 career points. But Boynton was more happy about UF's ability to overcome injuries and win by 22 points on the road.
“It's a byproduct of coach pushing us hard in practice,” Boynton said. “We practice hard, and in practice we're all not on the same teams, whether someone is hurt or not. I knew if I went down I would be confident that my team could go out and win without me. We had a great defensive effort.”
The Gators (12-2, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) held LSU to 32.3 percent from the floor and 25 percent (6-of-24) from 3-point range. It was the ninth time in 14 games that UF held an opponent under 60 points. Florida also outrebounded LSU 53-34 and held Tiger sophomore center Johnny O'Bryant to just two points on 1-of-8 shooting. O'Bryant sat out the entire second half with a leg injury.
“I thought we won the game based on our defense,” Donovan said. “Our ability to defend the 3-point line and our ability to rebound the ball I thought were keys in the game.”
Patric Young added 14 points for Florida, and Erik Murphy scored 12 points. Will Yeguete, on a gimpy knee, posted his third career double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Rosario, UF's second-leading scorer at 12.3 points per game, first injured his ankle late in last Wednesday's game against Georgia. He got it taped up, but the swelling forced him to sit out practices on Thursday and Friday.
Rosario did some light running and cutting in practice on Friday, and Donovan was optimistic he would return in time for LSU.
“The trainer (Dave “Duke” Werner) felt like maybe it was a one-plus ankle sprain,” Donovan said. “I don't know when he will back. I don't think it will be an injury that keeps him out too long. He just didn't feel like he could go.”
As a result, Florida went with its sixth different starting lineup combination in 14 games this season. Young, Murphy and Prather started up front, with Scottie Wilbekin at point guard and Boynton at shooting guard.
The Gators were out of sync on offense early, reverting back to questionable shot selection. Florida trailed 17-15 on a runner from LSU guard Shavon Coleman. Tied at 19, Florida closed the half on a 10-1 run. But during the run, Prather came down awkwardly on his ankle on a putback basket and hobbled toward the bench. Prather had X-rays done in the locker room at halftime, which came back negative.
“The good news is it's not a break,” Donovan said. “That's what I first thought it was. ... The doctor here at LSU thinks it may be a high ankle sprain. I don't know if it is. I saw a little bit of a highlight of it on TV at halftime, and he didn't roll his ankle. He just kind of came down on it funny.”
Up 29-20 at halftime, Florida carried its momentum into the second half. The Gators started the second half on a 21-5 run. Boynton and Murphy hit back-to-back 3-pointers to extend UF's lead to 39-23.
“In the second half, we felt more comfortable seeing what was open and what was not,” Boynton said. “We did a great job adjusting.”
Another Boynton 3-pointer put Florida up 44-25, and a putback from Yeguete gave UF its biggest lead, 50-25, with 12:29 left.
But LSU showed signs of life, going on a 12-0 run. The last seven points came off three straight turnovers from LSU's press.
“We had a lot of turnovers based on fatigue,” Donovan said. “Boynton was out there way too many minutes, so was Scottie. Our guards showed some resolve.”
Still up 50-37, Florida gained back momentum with a big 3-pointer from Murphy. Still playing through a broken rib, Murphy went 2-of-3 from 3-point range in the second half after going 0-of-4 in the first half.
Yeguete also stepped up, scoring all 10 of his points in the second half.
“I'm getting better every day,” Yeguete said. “I just have to play through it. I think we all have bumps and bruises as a team. It's going to be a long season.”
Yeguete said UF's second-half effort was a matter of staying together and staying connected.
“We played without Scottie and Casey early in the season,” Yeguete said. “I don't want to say we're used to it, but we know we can do it. We believe in ourselves and our coaches believe in us.”